Report indicts multinationals in Africa over tax evasion

tax evasion

tax evasion

A report has uncovered how African countries lose billions of dollars yearly through tax evasion by multinationals. The report lamented that such monies could have been invested in education, healthcare and other infrastructure.

It therefore, called on African leaders to confront the nefarious activities and ensure that what is due to their various countries in form of tax is paid by these multinational companies.

According to new Oxfam report, ‘Africa: Rising for the few,’ released on Tuesday, the continent was cheated to the tune of US$11 billion in 2010 through just one of the tricks used by multinational companies to reduce tax bills.

This is equivalent to more than six times the amount needed to deliver universal primary healthcare in the Ebola affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau. Oxfam’s findings is coming as African political and business leaders gather for the 25th World Economic Forum Africa, which began yesterday in South Africa.

The main theme of the meeting will be how to secure Africa’s economic rise and deliver sustainable development. Reforming global tax rules so that Africa can claim the money it is due and which is needed to tackle extreme poverty and inequality, is critical if the continent is to continue its economic rise.

Oxfam is calling for all governments to send their Head of State and Finance Ministers to the Financing for Development Conference in Ethiopia, in July.

The Addis Ababa conference will set out how the world will finance development for the next two decades and is an opportunity for governments to start developing a more democratic and fairer global tax system.

Oxfam International’s Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, said: “Africa is haemorrhaging billions of dollars because multinational companies are cheating African governments out of vital revenues by not paying their fair share in taxes.

If this tax revenue were invested in education and healthcare, societies and economies would further flourish across the continent.”

In 2010, the last year for which data is available, multinational companies avoided paying tax on US$40billion of income through a practice called trade mispricing –– where a company artificially sets the prices for goods or services sold between its subsidiaries to avoid taxation. With corporate tax rates averaging out at 28 percent in Africa this equates to $US11 billion in lost tax revenues.

Trade mispricing is just one of the ways multinational companies avoid paying their fair share of taxes. According to UNCTAD, developing countries as a whole lose an estimated US$100billion a year through another set of tax avoidance schemes involving tax havens. Companies also lobby hard for tax breaks as a reward for basing or retaining their business in African countries. Tax breaks provided to the six largest foreign mining companies in Sierra Leone add up to 59 per cent of the total budget of the country or eight times the country’s health budget.

According to Byanyima, “African leaders must not sit by while international tax reforms are agreed which give multinational companies free reign to sidestep their tax obligations in Africa. Political and business leaders must put their weight behind the ever louder calls for the reform of global tax rules.

African nations must also introduce a more progressive and democratic approach to taxation – including calling a halt to tax exemptions for foreign companies.”

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